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EMSsmWhen there is a serious medical emergency, seconds matter when it comes to saving lives.  Yet with increasing numbers of people living in towns and cities and fewer people living on farms and in rural areas, those who live in the countryside may be farther from a first responder in an emergency than they were decades ago.

“This is a national problem, a problem in all of rural Iowa, and in Marion County,” Kevin Kincaid, CEO at Knoxville Hospital & Clinics (KHC), told Bob Leonard of KNIA/KRLS news.

Jeff Anderson, Marion County emergency management coordinator, added, “We have great first responders in Marion County.  Unfortunately, sometimes we just don’t have enough trained people – particularly in the daytime when many first responders are at work.”

Cost is also an issue. Basic Emergency Medical Technician training might cost an individual $1,200-$1,500.  “Remember, for most of our first responders in rural areas, more than 95 percent of them are volunteers and they have to pay for much, if not all of their training,” said Anderson.

To address this problem, KHC is initiating the Knoxville Hospital & Clinics Emergency Response Training Initiative (ERTI) in collaboration with the Marion County Emergency Management Office, Marion County Emergency Response Association, and Mercy College of Health Sciences in Des Moines.

The first training session under ERTI begins on February 20.  With assistance from the hospital and grant money available through Anderson’s office, costs to individuals have been reduced to approximately $250, which is, according to Anderson, a significant reduction – enough to make it affordable to many more people who want to serve our communities in this important way. The course will be taught locally at the hospital by the education staff from Mercy College.

Anderson said that organizers have asked local fire chiefs and other officials to help identify likely candidates to participate in the program.  “It’s a tough program.  We want people with the dedication and commitment to succeed.”

Kincaid and Anderson shared that if the initiative is successful, it may be offered annually and that additional higher level training opportunities may also be offered in the future.  “Our goal is to improve health outcomes for everyone in our service area,” said Kincaid.

“Providing quality educational opportunities for emergency responders in an affordable manner will go a long way in helping to achieve that goal,” Kincaid continued.  “Our relationship with Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines (KHC is a Mercy affiliate) and Mercy’s long-term investment in our community by locating a helicopter in Knoxville shows our collective commitment to providing the very best in rural health care, including emergency response.  The Emergency Response Training Initiative is an important next step.”

Anyone interested in the program can apply online at

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